New Smash RX room is all the rage

Patrons can safely vent frustrations



IF I HAD A HAMMER—From left, Charles Luccero, Shavonna Alexander, Nidiyare Mejia and Mark Carino get in the swing Jan. 16 at Smash RX in Westlake Village. Owner Yashica Budde captures the destruction. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

IF I HAD A HAMMER—From left, Charles Luccero, Shavonna Alexander, Nidiyare Mejia and Mark Carino get in the swing Jan. 16 at Smash RX in Westlake Village. Owner Yashica Budde captures the destruction. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

Over the past year, a certain building off Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Westlake Village has seen a huge increase in people smashing bottles, breaking computers and destroying all kinds of furniture—but the police aren’t investigating.

In fact, the destruction is sanctioned, and it isn’t just for fun.

Smash RX is what’s known as a rage room. Participants sign up for 15- to 45-minute time slots and choose a package of electronic, glass or other breakables to demolish.

For owner Yashica Budde, a licensed marriage and family therapist, not only is a “smash sesh” fun, it can be cathartic.

“Traditionally, therapists stay within their boundaries,” said Budde, who opened the business in 2019. “I decided to do something very different and incorporate the smash side into it. I got a lot of grief and flak from my therapist friends, but smashing can be an alternative therapy.”

Destruction or expressive therapy— or as Budde calls it, “the Mad Max treatment”—creates a safe outlet for aggression and anger.

For example, some participants write their stressors and triggers (things that cause them anxiety) on glass plates. After smashing a printer with a baseball bat and bottles with a golf club, participants can take a sledgehammer to the plates with labels such as “work” or “coronavirus.”

“During the pandemic, my typical customers are super anxious and having cabin fever of being locked into their homes and not having much contact with anybody,” Budde said. “I want people to come in and have a good time. If they know that safety is first, then they can enjoy themselves and really let loose.”

The science of smash

The idea of releasing built-up aggression was posited by Sigmund Freud. He theorized that humans are motivated by drives, and one of those is aggression. According to Freud’s research, aggression builds up within people and needs to be let out somehow.

While traditional wisdom says releasing aggression in a safe way seems like a healthy outlet, not all scientific studies back that up, said Melissa Soenke, an associate professor of psychology at Cal State Channel Islands.

“So this idea of a rage room where you go and break a bunch of things seems like it would be a good outlet for this aggression that is building up in us,” Soenke said. “In terms of the research, does this work? There’s a lot of mixed research, but most of that research indicates that it doesn’t really work.”

Soenke, who has a doctorate in social psychology, said that much of the research indicates that when people behave in aggressive ways, it increases the likelihood of them engaging in more aggressive behavior.

That being said, Soenke agrees that the coronavirus pandemic is adding to people’s stress levels and it’s healthy to explore ways to manage that stress.

Stress relief aside, a lot of people just go to Smash RX for the joy of destroying things legally.

A.J. Grzybowski, a tattoo artist from Camarillo, brought his family to Smash RX last year.

“I had just gotten married a year prior, and I took on a stepdad role to three older kids, and it was an amazing family experience,” Grzybowski said.

The family destroyed a TV, a filing cabinet and a wood dresser.

“It felt good. It felt like a release of tension. It felt safe with all the (personal protective equipment) stuff that you have to wear in there. I definitely recommend it,” he said.

Barbara Roscoe-Graff of Sherman Oaks and her sister also went to Smash RX.

“We let go with such abandon and such complete intention that we were exhausted in that 15 minutes, and we were done. It was incredibly satisfying,” she said.

As fun as it is to let loose, anxiety, stress, anger and aggression should be taken seriously, Budde said

“There’s a huge (stigma) surrounding mental health, and my goal is to break that down,” she said. “There are all different types of mental health options out there, and this is an alternative to it that’s not laying on a couch talking about your problems.”

The Moorpark resident also offers anger management group therapy. Due to the pandemic, the rage room is only taking reservations for destruction-therapy appointments for one or two people. Budde also offers other therapy services.

Soenke said that with the uncertainty of the pandemic, people may feel additional levels of stress and anxiety, and seeking professional help for mental health issues is still important.

“If you’re feeling anger or anxiety most of the day or most days, more days than not, I think that might be a sign to think about whether they should seek some treatment,” she said. “With anxiety, when people are having overwhelming physical symptoms of anxiety, often characterized as panic attacks, that would be another sign that it’s important to seek some help with managing those emotions because those can be very overwhelming and scary.”

Sessions in the rage room start at $50 for one person and $80 for two. For information, call (818) 807-6274 or go to smashrxllc.com. Make reservations online.